Georges Henein / Photograph by Boula Henein | Courtesy: Farhi Estate, Paris and the artist
In three newly conceived artistic projects,After the Wildly Improbable takes a look at alternative schemes for sociopolitical and cultural transformations in regions of the eastern and southern Mediterranean that evolved in the aftermath of the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. The title of the project goes back to a statement made in 1900 by the British Consul of Damascus expressing his disbelief in the idea of constructing a railroad across the Ottoman Empire from Damascus to Mecca: “So wildly improbable, not to say fantastic.” The title aims at the ambiguity of the term “wild” as being outside the reach of culture, and thus outside its limits and limitations. This act of liberation points at the project’s focus: How can we explore experiential spaces beyond the pitfalls of established narratives such as progress, civilization, orientalism?
In a two-day event, author and cultural researcher Adania Shibli examines a large-scale project of the Ottoman Empire that was begun and left unfinished during the First World War: With German support, the Baghdad Railway was meant to connect Berlin with Baghdad, while the Hedjaz Railway would have linked Damascus with Mecca and run all the way to Jerusalem and Alexandria.
The playwright Mohammad Al Attar illuminates the – artificial – formation of the state of Syria by the colonial powers and locates roots of today’s conflicts and positions in the political cataclysms following the First World War. Moving beyond ready-made answers, he deconstructs the complex structure of the proxy wars that continue to decide the fate of the region to this day. Reflecting on Syria’s past and present, he asks himself – and us – the not so simple question: Why are we here today?
In his newly developed work, the artist and director Rabih Mroué questions Western consumerism as well as current Islamic ideologies. Mroué’s productions, such as Riding on a Cloud, presented at HKW as part of the Berlin Documentary Forum, repudiate any propagandist usurpation by asking questions instead of giving answers and leaving the audience or listeners to think for themselves.
Part of 100 Years of Now